Tractor-trailers, or “18-wheeler” trucks, are an important part of our national economy, transporting millions of tons of freight from state to state each year. While these vehicles are essential, they also pose a significant risk of serious injury to other motorists when they crash. Truck accident cases are often more complicated than other motor vehicle accidents due to the many federal and state regulations that apply to commercial vehicles. As a result, the best way for victims of semi-truck accidents to ensure that they receive the compensation that they deserve is to retain an attorney who understands how to handle tractor-trailer accident cases.
Houston and southeast Texas are particularly susceptible to the dangers of tractor-trailer accidents because many trucking routes from Mexico come up through Houston. Since NAFTA went into effect in the early 1990s, cross-border trucking has become increasingly common. Anyone driving on the streets of Houston is well aware of the number of commercial vehicles driving on our highways. Unfortunately, those originating from Mexico may be not subject to the same safety and regulatory scrutiny as domestic carriers.
After an accident with an 18-wheeler, you may feel confused and disoriented, as well as unsure of what to do next. Unfortunately, the things you say and do immediately following an accident may be determinative of whether or not you will recover financially for your injuries or any other losses you sustained.
After calling 911 for the police and ambulance (if anyone has possible injuries), some of the steps that truck accident victims should take following an accident include:
- Document relevant facts – As in any personal injury case, the specific facts of your accident are extremely important to establish legal liability. Facts that will likely be relevant include the name of the drivers involved in the accident, the company responsible for the operation of the truck, the weather conditions at the time of the accident, the speed you were traveling, as well any other conditions that you believe may have contributed to the accident. Take photographs of the scene of the accident if possible, and also try to obtain contact information from anyone who may have witnessed the accident.
- Seek medical attention – After an accident, seek medical attention from a trained professional. Even if you do not need transportation from the scene via ambulance, you should have a doctor examine you at an emergency room immediately if there are any signs of injury. Some injuries may take hours or even days to develop symptoms, and having them diagnosed early can be extremely helpful in establishing that they resulted from your accident.
- Consult with an attorney – Retain legal representation as soon as possible. Trucking companies have knowledgeable attorneys that work hard to limit their legal liability after an accident. In addition, insurance companies often will almost always attempt to settle with victims for much less than their claim is worth. Hiring an attorney who understands how to handle trucking accidents is the best way to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
Contact a Houston trucking accident attorney today for a free consultation.
Truck accident victims and their families may be eligible to receive significant compensation for their injuries. Houston trucking accident injury attorney Stewart Guss has represented folks in Houston, Cypress, Tomball, Katy, The Woodlands, Spring, and all over Texas after a truck accident. Call 800-898-4877 right now for your free consultation with Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers. Remember, the consultation is free, and there is no charge unless he wins your case.
The Trucking Industry in Texas
The trucking industry in Texas has taken off this century as the amount of traffic on the road continues to increase exponentially each year. Every day, vehicles such as oil tankers, store vehicles, and delivery drivers head out onto Texas highways to haul their cargo in and out of the state or country.
Simply stated, the trucking industry is huge in Texas. The fact that the state is so large means that goods need to travel a long way to reach their destination. The Texas Department of Transportation says that over 1.2 billion tons make their way over Texas roads each year. This is half of the freight moved in Texas each year. Projections have this number doubling over the next 20 years, especially as Texas nears becoming the most heavily populated state in the country.
So much truck traffic comes through Texas because:
- Most of the freight that moves between Texas and Mexico is through trucks, and there is extensive border infrastructure to allow for easy transport of goods.
- Texas has several deepwater ports that bring in container traffic from the Gulf of Mexico
- Texas is the largest producing oil state in the U.S. by far, with large refineries. Much product moves out of the state by truck.
- The state has a massive interstate highway system that allows for the transit of goods.
Texas’s large interstate highway network can be a blessing and a curse. While truckers move goods, the long stretches of highways could lead to fatigued drivers. Federal regulations exist that aim to prevent long driving shifts and too much driving time without a rest, but truckers may break these rules. Plus, the open road in the state could also be a temptation for drivers to speed to make up time or get their cargo to its destination on time.
Online Shopping Increases Truck Traffic
The amount of truck traffic was already high in Texas before online shopping began to take over retail. Now, it seems that practically every truck that you see on the road is from Amazon or FedEx. When Houston residents go online and order, the companies must fill and deliver the orders promptly, and this leads to a dramatic spike in truck traffic. Amazon alone spends billions of dollars to double its delivery capacity, and other large trucking companies are scrambling to keep pace.
These are just the trucking companies that you know about. The rise of the owner-operator means that there are over 66,000 trucking companies in Texas alone. Not all of these companies have the same safety standard. When big trucking companies cut corners, you could imagine what smaller companies may do to increase their profits. All it takes is one poorly maintained truck whose owner does not follow federal and state laws, and you can be severely hurt if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Truck Accident Fatalities Are Increasing in Texas
Truck fatality numbers in the state recently increased to over 600 each year, the highest number in the country. Most people focus on statistics involving truck accident fatalities, but truck crashes can cause serious injury, even when the accident victim survives the crash. 18-wheelers and semi-trucks weigh far more than the cars that they crash with, and the disparity magnifies the accident damage and injuries for other drivers.
It is not an exaggeration to say that truck accidents are far more serious and deadly than the average car accident. In addition, there are far more things that could go wrong with a truck that has a full load of up to 80,000 pounds of cargo that may be on a tight delivery schedule.
Tips for Truck Accident Victims
For injured accident victims and their families, the aftermath of a truck accident can be grueling and difficult. First, there is a likelihood that someone suffered injuries in the crash. In some cases, families could be dealing with the death of a loved one who did not survive the impact. Those who survive may be dealing with serious injuries.
Many people wonder about the first things that families should do in the wake of a truck accident.
As mentioned, these are the most important steps to take:
- Make sure to get the medical diagnosis and treatment that you need to both document your claim and be on the road to recovering as best as possible.
- Hire a lawyer right after your truck accident to begin work on the process for receiving financial compensation for your injuries.
The legal process begins at the scene of the accident. Chances are that you may not be in the condition to gather basic facts at the scene of the accident. You could ask someone else at the scene to take the pictures necessary to show what happened. If you can get contact information for any witnesses, it could help with your claim or lawsuit.
What Your Attorney Does After Your Truck Accident
This is why prompt consultation with an attorney is so important. If you can’t gather evidence on your own (and chances are that it will be difficult for you), your attorney can get to work immediately. Truck accidents are all about investigation and evidence. You will need proof to back up your side of the story. When a truck is involved, there are so many more ways to help prove your case.
In the early days after the accident, your attorney will go to work to assemble some of the proof that you need. Where truck accidents are different from a standard car crash is that there is a full body of federal regulations that the trucking company and the trucker must follow. If your attorney can uncover evidence about a violation of these laws, it could be evidence that the truck driver was responsible for your crash.
These regulations could involve:
- Limits on the number of hours that an operator can drive and how much they must rest
- Requirements for maintenance of trucks
- Regulations that limit the weight of trucks and govern dangerous cargo
- Driver CDL qualifications and training requirements
In many cases, evidence of liability exists in the trucking company’s records. They have maintenance logs and driver records that could hold the answers. In addition, many trucks have black boxes that can give key information about what happened in the immediate lead-up to the accident.
Why You Need to Move Quickly After Your Truck Accident
However, you must move quickly to obtain this evidence. You can never fully trust that the trucking company will take action to preserve it, especially if they know that it could hold the key to massive liability on their part. An attorney would begin the legal action necessary to preserve key evidence before the company can destroy it. Trucking companies are only required to keep black box data for so long before they can overwrite it, so you should not wait too long to try to obtain it.
Once your attorney has investigated the crash and determined who was responsible for it, you can begin the claims process.
There is one major difference between a truck and car accident that could help your recovery. In a truck accident, you could file a lawsuit against the trucking company. The truck driver is their agent, and the company is legally responsible for the actions of their driver.
Truck Accidents Are High Stakes Matters
Where this helps you is that the truck company likely has a large insurance company in place. They recognize that their assets could be at risk because they would be the ones paying anything more than the policy limits of their coverage. If the insurance policy is not enough, you can go after the company itself. In Texas, as in the rest of the country, there has been a rise in the “nuclear verdicts” that have put trucking companies out of business.
This is why your claim is a high-stakes matter for the trucking company and its insurers. You can rest assured that they will try to play hardball in any way that they can. In the meantime, you might face mounting medical bills and an inability to earn a living, in addition to other losses. You need your own legal firepower to match what they have lined up against you.
How Long Will Your Truck Accident Case Take?
You are probably wondering how long your Houston truck accident case will take and when you can receive your check. When it comes to a truck accident case, you do what is in your control, namely filing a claim that clearly lays out the evidence and your damages. Much of the rest of it depends on the insurance company and whether you have to go to trial.
If you choose to start with the insurance company as opposed to beginning with a lawsuit, be prepared for some lengthy negotiations. When you hire us as your lawyers, we help you by knowing the value of your claim. This will keep the insurance company from lowballing you and paying you too little. Nonetheless, you should prepare yourself for your lawyer to engage in some very involved negotiations.
Your Truck Accident Damages
When you are seeking damages for your injuries, you can demand compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Lost wages and reduction in earning capacity
- Emotional distress
- Wrongful death
If the trucker or their company’s actions were extremely bad, you may receive punitive damages. While these are rare in a personal injury case, you can get them more easily from a company that intentionally violated laws or was extremely reckless.
In Texas, you have two years to file a lawsuit after the date of your injury due to the statute of limitations, and it is a hard time limit. Therefore, the insurance company cannot drag out your settlement negotiations forever. At some point, you may need to decide to file a lawsuit in court, but this is not a guarantee that your case will go to trial, as your case could still settle before you have a hearing.
Your truck accident case could take time to conclude, as there are many stages to a personal injury trial, and each one of them takes time. These cases are not always easy because the defendants have every incentive to fight hard. You need an experienced and aggressive attorney to put pressure on the defendant and their insurance company.
Why You Need a Truck Accident Attorney
Studies report that injured claimants who have legal representation from attorneys receive more on average than an unrepresented claimant. There are too many tricks of the trade that the insurance company knows that you do not that keep you from effectively handling your own matter. The disparity only increases if your case goes to court. An experienced attorney can help you get results. Otherwise, you may find that what seemed like a surefire case becomes one where the insurance company either denies the claim or pays you pennies on the dollar. A truck accident claim is not one where you can afford to take a DIY approach.
Seek Help From Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers
Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers have helped truck accident victims and their families for over two decades. We are not afraid to fight for you against anyone who would seek to deny you the compensation that you deserve. We handle complex truck crash claims and know how to stand up to insurance companies to get maximum compensation for each and every client. We are ready to talk to you about what we can do in your case. Call us today at (800) 898-4877 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation. Don’t delay in seeking the legal help you need.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.